Feedback Sports

Trainer vs. Rollers – How to Decide – Maghalie Rochette

Feedback Sports offers a variety of performance products to support your cycling training and racing. We know every cyclist is different with varying needs and wants. Folks often reach out to ask us for our expertise and suggestions based on their individual situation. But why take our word for it when you can take that of an accomplished professional bike racer?

This blog comes from sponsored athlete and Canadian Cyclocross National Champion, Maghalie Rochette. She addresses two age-old dilemmas: “outdoor elements vs. indoor training” and “trainer vs. rollers” and she does it with a clever 80’s rock reference.

All Photos: Courtesy of Ten Speed Hero

————————————————————————————————————–

It’s no coincidence that Guns N’ Roses decided to name a song ‘November Rain’. November seems to bring a lot of rain, and more often than not it brings cold temperatures too.

As a cyclocross racer, weather is an element we have to take into consideration when planning the season’s training. It presents its own physical challenges and can certainly raise mental doubt too. Should I use that opportunity to go outside and practice my skills in the mud? Am I risking getting sick?  Can I do quality intensity work in sloppy and cold conditions or should I do that inside?

My experience is that there is no 100% right or wrong answers to those questions. Riding in the rain from time to time is essential to work on your skills for muddy cyclocross races and it can certainly boost your mental preparedness.

Some will say that riding in the rain builds character. But if you’re sick, no matter how much character you’ve got, how much good are you doing?

Riding outside in those conditions requires much more energy than doing the same training ride in good conditions, and that is not to be neglected…even Axel Rose said it: “It’s hard to hold a candle, in the cold November rain.” I’m pretty certain that when he wrote those lyrics, he meant it’s hard to keep the fire alive when riding in the cold November rain. All said, long rides in the wet and cold aren’t necessarily ideal.

It can be tempting to ride indoors when it’s cold and wet, but maintaining cyclocross skills for off-camber, loose terrain requires getting outside and practicing race scenarios. 

How do you keep your training effective without getting sick, without sacrificing your skills and without draining all your motivation?

Balance is the key! Personally, indoor cycling suits my interval training and short easy spins, and I save the outdoor riding for skills training and running workouts.  Intervals keep you engaged, which makes time pass quickly, even when riding inside. And for easy rides I like to watch a cyclocross race to “study” the racing – time well spent, no doubt.

When indoor training calls, trainer or rollers?  They both have their advantages and I use both in my cyclocross training. Below is a summary of my experience training and racing – I hope it helps you make the decision on which device fits your needs the best.

 

How to improve running for cyclocross? Run… When the weather turns sour, use that time to get outside and do the running that’s required come race day – it’s gonna happen, so be prepared.

Why I choose the Omnium Over-Drive Trainer

  • Small and compact: The foldable and compact design of the Omnium makes it very easy to travel with and carry around. (I usually travel with it as my carry-on item in the plane!)
  • Stability: The Omnium trainer is super stable. That allows me to easily pedal without hands and do high-intensity intervals without concentrating on balance.
  • Standing on the bike: Intervals can be done at maximum effort, even while standing, with full confidence that I’m supported and I don’t have to focus on anything but doing the work.
  • Progressive resistance: The harder I work, the more the trainer works against me, simple. If I go easy, it won’t put up a fight. That’s an awesome feature that allows me to do all-out intervals without running out of gears, but also allows me to spin easy when I need to recover. Having that progressive resistance is ideal for warm-up and cool-down efforts at the races.
  • Smooth and natural: The feeling of pedaling on the Omnium is smoother and more realistic than any other trainer I’ve ridden, but not quite as natural as when riding the rollers.
  • Cycling apps: Sometimes when the motivation isn’t at full steam, Zwift or TrainerRoad can add a little excitement

Why I choose the Zero-Drive Rollers

  • Natural, smooth feeling: As much as I enjoy the Omnium, rollers allow my bike to move like it does when I’m riding outside and there’s something nice about that. You can spin the legs quickly and easily and, in my opinion, time seems to pass a little quicker on rollers.
  • Balance/Skills: The natural movement on the rollers opens up opportunities to work on skills and balance even when riding inside. (For example: one leg pedaling, working on cadence, one hand, no hands, etc.)
  • Standing: You can stand up on the rollers, but you have to be careful. All-out standing sprints on rollers is a bit precarious. I’m typically standing only to change position for comfort.

*When riding rollers, having a bench or wall nearby can make getting on and off a lot easier and something you’ll appreciate if you’re new to the free-floating design.

Training is for building fitness and visualizing success – the opportunity to ride indoors on a trainer means your attention is free to explore pain, breathing techniques, and creating mental images of the win. 

 

At the end of the day, it’s all about finding what works best to maintain happiness, motivation, fitness and skills.

It also helps to have an outside opinion when making those decisions – someone who will be more rational and less emotional. I rely on my coach, David Gagnon, because I know he has the big picture in mind and that he’ll make the most educated decisions.

When it’s all set and done, crank out some Guns N Roses on your speakers and get pumped for those intervals – bring on the November Rain! I promise, you’ll have a good time 😉

 

Note: The Omnium Overdrive trainer is also available as a resistance-free Zero-Drive Omnium complete trainer, or Zero-Drive sled add-on for your existing Omnium Overdrive – ideal for track cyclists, BMX, or an easier warm-up/cool-down at the races.